Released: 2015, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Michael Monroe was glam metal years before it was a shat upon punchline. Michael Monroe was punk rock well before the metal kids discovered The Ramones. Michael Monroe took the musical chances decades ago that would eventually make Guns N’ Roses an acceptable, household commodity. Michael Monroe willingly slummed it on the streets of Europe in the 80’s rather than cave to societal comforts – big hair, makeup, and all.
Michael Monroe was the lead singer of Hanoi Rocks. Michael Monroe just released his ninth solo (studio) album – so you’d best to pay attention.
BLACKOUT STATES is the latest release from the man, and is arguably his strongest/most relevant release since ‘89’s NOT FAKIN’ IT. Capturing the energy and unapologetic attitude of his youth and matching it with the hindsight of an elder statesman, BLACKOUT STATES is an almost confessional album. Brazen sleaze anthems like “This Ain’t No Love Song” and “The Bastard’s Bash” are matched with the heart tugging reminiscence of “Old King’s Road”, “Going Down With the Ship” and “Dead Hearts on Denmark Street”. “Old King’s Road” is easily the album’s standout track and is sure to become a fan favorite; mentions of leather jackets, rose tattoos, and changing names “like the good ones do” are sure to wax nostalgic with anyone who remembers what an amazing time the 80’s were for music. Seriously – if you didn’t live through it, there’s nothing that will ever compare or compete with that generation of music. But Mike does his best to convey how special and fleeting those moments were, making BLACKOUT STATES all the more impactful. It also doesn’t hurt that his voice is still in inexplicably prime condition after all this time, and he’s got a kick ass band backing him up across these 13 new tracks.
I mentioned the punk thing earlier – Hanoi could hold their own with the likes of Dead Boys as easily as they could with Aerosmith; things were less complicated then. Tracks like “R.L.F.” and “Walk Away” embrace a pretty clear punk aesthetic –that is if that punk aesthetic were drenched in Aqua Net and eyeliner. It doesn’t take away from the impact of Monroe’s craft, but rather deconstructs how much of an (underappreciated) impact the guy has had on popular music.
Regardless of your musical predispositions, I defy you to listen to BLACKOUT STATES and resist the smile that will inevitably creep across your mug. Michael Monroe survived the before and after of the Sunset Strip era and lived to tell about it. Better yet, he continues to write some great songs about it - BLACKOUT STATES is proof of that.